“I will always cherish my time at Polkadot—as a 16-year-old, the prospect of travelling to Kabarnet was frightening, but in the end I had such a positive time in Kenya with the library. The people of Baringo County were so welcoming, excited to have me, and supportive of my stay there. I met other students my age and made friends, and the experiences I had with them—hiking, sharing meals, and chatting about our lives—I will never forget. Teaching the children about robotics and engineering was difficult, for sure, but seeing how the technology inspired the students and excited them about the future was incredibly rewarding. Kabarnet is a charming town at its core and Polkadot adds a hugely valuable resource to the people there. Investing in our world’s children is important, and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to contribute to the library and support its mission of serving Kabarnet.”
– Sunil Tohan, Brown University, volunteer 2016
Following graduation from architecture school in Spring 2015, I vividly remember receiving an email from a former professor in contact with Christyne that would change my life. I was asked if I would be interested in doing some drawings for a library project in western Kenya. Without knowing much else about the project, I eagerly responded and accepted my first project after architecture school.
Ten months later, I found myself at the airport in Nairobi waiting to drive to Kabarnet. Prior to leaving the US for Kenya, I had worked with Christyne for several months on research and design for the project. Standing in the airport waiting to drive to Kabarnet after months and months of hard work with Christyne, I couldn’t believe that the day had finally arrived when I was there. It was really happening! I was going to supervise the construction of this amazing project.
Before living in Kabarnet – to me Kenya was a very far away place that I knew practically nothing about. After being warmly greeted by new friends and colleagues, I quickly learned my Kenyan history and culture: my friend Cyrus took me to the national park in Nairobi where Kenya declared independence from the British in 1962, I learned about the village where President Obama’s father was from, I got to meet local college students studying medicine from Mombasa, I ate plenty of ugali, my friend Rosaleine took me to a school opening in Rift Valley, my friend Kibichii and I talked soccer (alot) and worked hard with our construction team, I got stuck under a bus stop during monsoon rain for almost an hour (it was beautiful), everyday at 9am I had breakfast in my favorite cafe in a 3-story building overlooking Rift Valley.
These are just a few of the things that happened while I was living in Kabarnet for 3 months. During my time there, I met amazing people working hard for their town and country. Christyne opened the door for me into a new world, the world that exists outside of the United States, that I want to learn more and more about since my time in Kabarnet. Little did I know when responding to my professor’s email that this opportunity would change my life so much, and shape my world view.
-Dan Roche, Polkadot Library Architect and volunteer, 2015
Last summer, as a high school sophomore, I had the amazing opportunity to be invited by a Peace Corps veteran to work with over 1,500 students in a town called Kabarnet in central Kenya, teaching classes on engineering and robotics for one month. My teaching was facilitated by the Polkadot Library, which is an amazing nonprofit establishment started by veteran Christyne Nasbe, who hosted my stay. Not only did the library allow me to pursue my passion and interests, but it also serves to help thousands of young students in the area to exceed their relatively narrow curriculum at school, and explore new possibilities and interests. Staying in Kabarnet, I learned about the power of merely realizing the possibility of one’s potential. Many of these kids aren’t able to see their future beyond high school and tending to their families afterward. The library encourages them to think beyond this and take charge of their future.
During my time at Polkadot, I made amazing friendships, talking about everything from Justin Bieber, to robots and computers, to playing soccer in the mud. Connecting with those that have so much more courage and less than I do taught me about the power of sharing experiences and the wealth of knowledge that each individual, no matter how young or old, rich or poor, has to offer. Working at Polkadot has opened my eyes to the expanse of knowledge and connections I’ve yet to make. Now, a whole year later, not a day passes where something that I learned during my time there is not acknowledged as I go about my everyday life. I wish I could share completely the depth to which I’ve grown from this experience, the people I met, the nature I indulged in, the food and markets I explored, and the spiritual growth I gained from each interaction and moment spent there. Polkadot library will always hold a special place in my heart!
-Richaa Kalva, volunteer, 2017